One of the more endearing aspects of the foodservice industry is the fact that it continues to embrace its entrepreneurial spirit. We celebrate the fact that someone with a passion for cooking and a good spaghetti sauce recipe can turn that into a culinary career.

The various members of the supply chain often, rightfully, beam with pride when they discuss the many instances when they took an idea for a foodservice operation sketched out on the back of a cocktail napkin and helped transform it into a restaurant that made someone’s dream a reality.

Many people cite the relationships they form with suppliers, customers and peers as the key element that keeps them so engaged in the industry. While a compelling part of this industry’s culture, relationships will often overshadow another critical factor that turns so many people into foodservice lifers. Simply put: it allows them to pursue their passions. No, I am not talking about participating in the myriad golf tournaments that seem to define foodservice-related events.

Rather, a career in foodservice brings together professionals from seemingly disparate backgrounds, such as accounting, design, engineering, and customer service, to work collaboratively while simultaneously pursuing their passions. All in all, that’s a pretty wonderful dynamic.

While the industry has done a good job of understanding how consumers have changed their purchasing behaviors in response to the recession and to general economic uncertainty, it is equally important to come to terms with how you and your business will need to adapt moving forward.

Many foodservice consultants are starting to understand this. For years, they were able to pursue their passion for designing highly efficient kitchens and their businesses grew by word of mouth. Many were able to secure their next deal with a simple handshake. Unfortunately, the reality of today has many of these consultants now trying to understand what it means to market themselves, get a better handle on such back office functions as billing and how to define the scope of service they will provide their customers.

While attending FCSI’s Chicago Super Regional event I was impressed by the candor with which the consultants participating in the second day’s seminar discussed these topics and more. They seemingly understand that what drew them to this industry and what initially made them a success won’t be enough to sustain their businesses.

This point is not lost on the service agents, either. In fact, as part of a survey sent to CFESA members earlier this year, service agents indicated that in order to improve their business performance they have increased their marketing efforts and have done a better job of targeting operator segments with potential for growth.

It is very encouraging to see foodservice professionals from these two segments continuing to invest in their future success. I hope that other consultants and service agents, and dealers, reps and factories for that matter take a similar path toward improvement by sharpening their business acumen.